Ireland's Statement at Donor Conference on Reconstruction of Iraq
I wish to thank our Spanish hosts for their hospitality and for the substantial work they and the co-chairs have undertaken to prepare the ground for this conference. I would like to make particular mention of the achievements, if I may, of Special Representative of the Secretary General, the late Sergio Vieira De Mello whose premature death has left us greatly saddened at a personal level and has left a great gap in the international humanitarian and development community.
We must be mindful of the violence which has been suffered by the Iraqi people for over 30 years. This conflict and its effects on every aspect of existence in Iraq have ensured that the country is now one of the poorer countries in the world. The task facing the Iraqi people and the international community is enormous. We are now faced with physical and social infrastructures which have been almost totally destroyed or degraded.
While the situation facing Iraq is extremely difficult, the challenges facing us are not unique. As donors we have garnered valuable experience and lessons from similar post- conflict situations. Our aim must be to avoid the mistakes of the past and incorporate the lessons learned in a practical way in all our recovery and reconstruction activities. I cannot over-emphasise the importance of coordination in all phases of the reconstruction effort. I know this view is shared by all of us and must find concrete expression in all our practical arrangements.
Ireland also believes that the UN should be at the heart of the recovery process. It has the experience, capacity and perceived neutrality to carry this objective forward. Its work in East Timor and Afghanistan is perceived as having been successful.
I would like to welcome the United Nations/World Bank Joint Iraq Needs Assessment Report. I would like to express my deep appreciation to all the members of the assessment mission for their dedication and commitment to producing this report, despite the enormous difficulties and challenges faced by all during the mission.
Whilst recent experience of post-conflict situations has been mixed, our understanding of the elements required for post conflict development is improving. The two most critical lessons seem to be that the process has to be owned by the population concerned and that high levels of international engagement need to be sustained for many years. We know from the experience of Northern Ireland how difficult it is to achieve lasting peace where deep divisions and suspicions exist. It would be counterproductive for us to impose absolute conditions. What is required is motivation and support rather than prescription.
We are here today to pledge our support for the enormous task of enabling Iraqi society to recover. Financial resources alone are, of course, not sufficient. The way in which the financial resources are translated into actions and programmes will be the key to the outcome of our efforts. Successful reconstruction will necessitate building the capacity of local institutions and systems, good governance and key sectoral assistance especially in the areas of basic needs and livelihood support.
We all share a great desire to begin the work of recovery as soon as feasible. However, the process must be managed carefully in order to balance our understandable desire to achieve early results and to absorb the funds in a productive and accountable manner.
However, it is also critically important that we should not lose sight of the urgency of the current humanitarian situation. The scale of needs on the humanitarian front in Iraq is still enormous. Helping the people of Iraq to survive from one day to the next is no less of an imperative for the international community than supporting the task of rebuilding the country and laying down the foundations for lasting peace and stability.
I would like to pay particular tribute to the Red Cross family and UNICEF who remained, as far as humanly possible, active on the ground during the conflict. The heroic work of the mainly Iraqi personnel of these organisations undoubtedly saved many lives as they selflessly addressed the needs of the most vulnerable.
Ireland will play its part in this critical endeavour. Ireland has delivered € 5 million in humanitarian assistance to Iraq in 2003. This assistance, which represents a considerable proportion of the available emergency funding, is being delivered through a wide range of international organisations and NGOs experienced in the provision of effective humanitarian assistance.
The Irish people have been deeply aware of the suffering of the Iraqi people over the last decade and have contributed generously to the work of Irish NGOs, International Organisations and UN agencies in Iraq. I am fully cognisant of the important role to be played by these organisations in the recovery tasks that lie ahead.
Ireland pledges up to three million Euro to the humanitarian and recovery needs of Iraq. It is proposed that this pledge would be mainly channelled through UN Trust Fund mechanisms and through valued partners such as UN agencies, International Organisations and NGOs.